It hasn’t been the easiest of years for German tech startups, with VCs pulling back on investments and companies downsizing their teams to extend their runway.
Under shaky market conditions, VC funding in Germany took a nosedive this year — dropping from a record $20.4bn in 2021 to $11.4bn as of December 14, 2022. This wasn’t the steepest decline in Europe though, with VC funding in the UK dropping by almost half this year: from $123bn in 2021 to $67.6bn in 2022.
But there were still signs of strength: six new unicorns emerged this year — compared to last year’s total of seven — including Choco (ordering software for restaurants and suppliers), Grover (rental platform for furbished tech) and flying taxi company Volocopter.
34 VC firms have raised funds (some of them like Visionaries Club even raised multiple funds) were raised, many of which are still deploying capital as liberally as before (so they say). And a new fund of funds called Equation was launched that has already backed 13 emerging fund managers, including Berlin-based Visionaries Club and deeptech fund VSquared.
But aside from these big events, what else has been going on this year? Sifted looked back at its 2022 coverage and rounded up a few key moments.
Germany’s unicorns raised megarounds
Despite investors being more conservative with their spending this year, a few of Germany’s unicorns raised juicy rounds this year, including:
- HR tech platform Personio, which raised $200m at an $8.5bn valuation, making it one of Europe’s most valuable tech companies;
- Flying taxi company Volocopter raised $182m in Germany’s largest ever deeptech round;
- Process mining company Celonis secured $1bn (a mix of equity and debt) at a $13bn post-money valuation;
- WeFox raised $400m at a $4.5bn valuation.
A bunch of VC funds were raised…
Including the first healthtech-focused VC in Europe to be set up by an exited healthtech founder.
Munich-based YZR Capital (pronounced “wiser”), which was launched this month, has a target fund size of €100m — and has already raised €60m of it. It was founded by Reinhard Meier, who founded healthtech startup Teleclinic which exited in 2020 for €50m.
Germany also saw its first continuation fund of €430m from HV Capital. Continuation funds, which are commonly used in private equity, allow VC firms to keep hold of their mature companies for longer with the hope of making bigger returns down the line. They also give LPs a way to cash out earlier.
Other German funds to raise this year include:
- Cavalry Ventures: €160m early-stage fund
- Point Nine: €180m seed fund for B2B startups
- Project A Ventures: $375m early-stage fund
- Cherry Ventures: €300m seed fund
- Visionaries Club: €400m split into three funds: €150m seed, €200m growth, €50m Tomorrow Fund
- COI Partners: growth fund for DACH startups
- Headline: €320m early-stage fund
- XAnge: €220m early-stage fund for digital, deeptech and impact startups
- AENU: €100m climate tech fund
Getir acquires Gorillas
Speedy grocery startup Gorillas was a darling of the German startup scene when it emerged during lockdown in 2020. But this year, we’ve seen the company — which has raised a total of $1.3bn from VCs — fall from grace.
The embattled startup was reportedly burning €60m a month in May and struggling to raise fresh investment, and has now been acquired by Getir in a deal that has seen both companies' valuations drop. The combined entity will reportedly be valued at $10bn, with Getir at $8.8bn and Gorillas at $1.2bn.
The terms of the deal, according to the Financial Times, suggest that Gorillas’ investors will get $40m in cash alongside equity — though it’s likely that some VC will make no return on their investment, given the hefty cut in the company’s valuation.
The acquisition concludes a turbulent year for speedy grocery companies, many of which have had to cut staff and back out of key European markets to stay operational.
In 2023, it’ll be interesting to see which companies thrive or fall, now that Gorillas, once a big competitor for in the industry, is out of the race.
Female founders still underrepresented in German tech
This probably won’t come as too much of a surprise, but the share of female founders in Germany’s startup ecosystem is just 20.3% — though this figure has been steadily rising since 2018.
The German Startup Association’s 2022 Female Founders Monitor report found that women still face significant obstacles when founding and running startups including:
- Handling the majority of caregiving responsibilities, meaning less hours worked than men;
- Not being able to raise as much money from investors as men;
- Difficulty in accessing angel investors.
One thing that could help female founders is access to female angels who have also founded businesses — but they are still few and far between in Germany, as well as Europe.
Only 6% of female founders are business angels in Germany, compared to 15.6% male founders.
A spattering of seed rounds
Early-stage investments got that much more attractive to VCs this year, as late-stage funding dried up and valuations of later-stage startups plummeted.
In healthtech, Kranus Health — a startup that calls itself the "Viagra of digital therapy" — raised a $6.5m Series A round for its digital solution for erectile dysfunction. And Aware, a blood test startup raised $15m.
Spacetech startup ConstellR also raised seed financing, to the tune of $10m, for its satellites that help farmers save water and prevent crop damage.
And conversational commerce platform Charles, a SaaS solution helping ecommerce businesses sell products, send newsletters and support customers via chat apps like WhatsApp — raised a $20m Series A.
Some words of wisdom at brunch
German travel booking unicorn Omio had a wild ride during the pandemic. As travel ground to a halt, millions of Omio users cancelled their bookings overnight — and the company lost 98% of its revenue within a month.
Omio came springing back this year, however, even scooping up €80m in fresh funding. Sifted thought there was no time like the present to discuss with Naren Shaam, the company’s founder, what he learned from this experience, so we invited him for brunch in Berlin. Here’s his advice to struggling founders.
“First, believe that your business is going to make it. Imagine yourself on the other side; that will keep you going,” he said.
Second, prioritise cash and make all decisions for your business based on making it last.
And finally: there’s no blueprint for surviving a crisis: you just have to “keep doing the small things, and at some point the big things will come,” said Shaam.
We’ve given a brief wrap-up of the key moments in German tech this year, but what’s in store for 2023? We asked 10 founders, investors and community builders in Germany to give their predictions for next year.